DENVER — When Los Angeles Lakers' coach Mike Brown got the ax dropped on him Friday, two days after his team fell to the Utah Jazz and slipped to a 1-4 start in this young NBA season, speculation ran rampant as to who might be in line to take over the Lakers' high-profile head-coaching position.
And, sure enough, among the names on the list of potential candidates to lead the talent-laden, underachieving Lakers out of the woods this year was one that's mighty familiar to Jazz fans: Jerry Sloan.
Sloan, of course, is the tough-minded, no-nonsense guy who guided the Jazz franchise for 23 seasons. His teams, led by the one-two tandem of John Stockton and Karl Malone, earned 19 playoff berths along the way, including back-to-back appearances in the NBA Finals in 1997-98.
But he abruptly resigned as Utah's head coach after a much-publicized blowup with star guard Deron Williams in February 2011. Williams wound up getting traded to the New Jersey Nets two weeks later.
Since then, the 70-year-old Sloan has expressed interest in returning to coaching, but he turned down an offer to coach the Charlotte Bobcats last summer and then was passed over by the Portland Trail Blazers in their search for a new coach.
Tyrone Corbin, the man who replaced coach Sloan at the Jazz helm 19 months ago, expressed sympathy in seeing Brown get fired just five games into the 2012-13 campaign.
"It's unfortunate," Corbin said of Brown's dismissal. "It's unfortunate any time anybody loses a job like that. Mike's a good guy. He's a hard and dedicated worker, and it's just unfortunate that it happens.
"Five games in, a lot of things can change, a lot of things can happen. It's a long season. I don't know what the expectations were. It's just unfortunate it had to happen and it happened so soon."
Corbin also said he'd be happy to see Sloan get back into coaching if that's what the Hall of Fame bench boss desires to do.
"If that's what (Sloan) wants to do, I'm happy for him," Corbin said. "He's a great coach. He's a great guy. And he deserves to do anything he decides to do in life."
The loaded Lakers' lineup, which already had the dynamic duo of Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, added point guard Steve Nash and center Dwight Howard during the offseason. But with high preseason expectations, a winless preseason and a 1-4 start to the regular season wasn't what ownership had in mind, and Brown was sent packing.
Jazz power forward Paul Millsap, who spent most of the first five years of his NBA career playing for Sloan, said his former coach's tough, old-school approach would be exactly what the egocentric Lakers needed to start playing up to expectations.
But Millsap couldn't see coach Sloan on the Lakers' sideline.
"I doubt if that happens," Millsap said. "It sounds good and it'd be good to look over and see coach Sloan back on the bench, but I doubt if it's in L.A.
"His mentality would be good (for that team), but knowing who coach Sloan is and knowing his background, L.A. is not really the spot for him, not really a good fit for him. It's not for him."
TEAMMATES ... OR NOT: An item in the Nuggets' pregame notes caught our eye.
It read: "Nuggets center Kosta Koufos and Jazz center Al Jefferson were teammates in Minnesota during the 2010-11 season."
Uh, actually, Koufos is the guy the Jazz traded to Minnesota in 2010 in order to bring Jefferson to Utah.
So the only way those two were teammates was if somebody was playing a video game. And, if so, we're betting Jefferson was the starting center, not Koufos.